It's something I never thought would happen: marathon weekend has become one of my favorite weekends of the year.
I've never been a big runner. My first Little Rock Marathon experience came back in 2005. KATV was putting together a relay team. It featured a first time runner, Michelle Rupp, who's become a bona fide running machine; Kate Sullivan, who's now enjoying TV fame in Chicago, was an occasional runner; former TV 7 morning star Jason Harper also did a little running; my official running resume included one or two 5K's. I'm happy to say that team KATV did survive the marathon.
A little background on the Sullivan family: I have 4 sisters and one older brother, Mike (he's the runner). He got into running when his kids started running in high school. They would become elite high school runners and he would become a running machine.
Fast forward to 2009. I found a way to get Mike to Arkansas - the Little Rock Marathon. I would run my first half-marathon and he would the full. That was the beginning of what is now a five year Sullivan family run.
In 2010, nephews Dan and James joined me and Mike for the relay marathon. It was the highlight of my short running career. We actually WON the relay Marathon! It helps having wicked fast nephews.
We were back to defend our title in 2011 but had to settle for second place. Slow Steve cost us a shot at repeating by crawling the first 6.5 miles.
The family marathon experience grew in 2012 when my wife, Toni, and our two daughters, Keely and Kayla, ran the half-marathon. Cousin Roger also joined us from North Carolina. Throw in me, Mike, Dan and James, and Team Sullivan had grown to eight half-marathoners.
It's a new year and we have two new members of Team Sullivan. The nephews are out this year, but the nieces are in. Two 20-something runners, Laura and Briana, are on their way from Washington, DC. For the first time, the women will outnumber the men on race day.
I can't forget about our support team: sister-in-law Maureen and her daughter, Joanna, have been making the trip from Massachusetts to Arkansas since 2009.
The race experience will last a little over two hours but it's the hours spent with family before and after the run that make it a weekend that I look forward to each year.